Once again, something came up that was too good to pass on: I pulled the trigger on this Ceccherini when I saw it with a Buy-It-Now price of 50 Pounds. I think it had only just been put up: the Ebay counter shows only six hits during the time the listing was active. That price was less than the cheapest hard shell case on the market, so I really had to give in. The seller lives near me and I picked it up in person after work today.
It's a beautiful instrument in robust shape. Some cosmetic battering, largely as a result of prolonged exposure to light while out of a case, but nothing serious other than some restorative work needed on the bridge. Straight neck, low action, no soundboard cracks, fine tight top woods (as on any Ceccherini I've seen). Unlike my other two Ceccherinis, there will be no adjustment of action necessary before making it playable.
In terms of level of decoration and quality of craftsmanship, it's a close relative to my other double-top Ceccherini, except for its evidently much harder life. Where the other one looks like it came out of the showroom yesterday, this one has tarnished silver inlays, dulled tortoiseshell and a very dark soundboard. As usual, fabulously elegant inlay work on the pickguard, tailpiece cover, fretboard markers and, the coup-de-grace, a wonderfully elegant brass, MOP and abalone inlay on the headstock. I've not seen headstock inlay like this one before and will post photos once I have it cleaned up. For the brass and silver inlay, polishing with Brasso or such should restore some sheen. Any ideas on how to polish old dull tortoiseshell?
The most striking aspect of this one is of course that it has ten strings. The listing didn't make it clear whether they were in four or in five courses, but it turns out that it's four courses, with the triple strings on the treble courses. A pity in a way, as I thought it might be a mandolin/mandola, like Vega used to make. I don't think conversion to five courses is a goer, either: the fretboard is only about a millimetre wider than my 8-string Ceccherini and the bowl looks to be exactly the same shape and size as the other one with the very curious exception that it has 15 ribs where the other one has 16. Braces may be slightly stronger, and the neck is certainly somewhat chunkier, presumably to withstand the extra tension from two additional strings, but it's otherwise not obviously stronger built.
I'm pretty sure I will set it up as an eight-string and make use of the extra strength by going for slightly heavier gauges, e.g. the Optima Goldins that I use on the Embergher.
Photos to come soon once I've cleaned it up a bit.